Gower Bibliography

English, Latin, and the Text as 'Other': the Page as Sign in the Work of John Gower

Yeager, R.F. "English, Latin, and the Text as 'Other': the Page as Sign in the Work of John Gower." Text 3 (1987), pp. 251-67.


The mixture of English and Latin on the MS pages of CA results, according to Yeager, in the creation of three different "voices" requiring our attention in the poem: that of the fiction, the story of Amans and Genius and the exempla, in English; that of the Latin verses that divide up the text; and that of the Latin prose marginalia. The second voice, Yeager argues, serves some of the same functions as the links in CT, but is peculiarly without a speaker: "no character, no fictive or even omniscient narrator, speaks these Latin lines; they appear as devices only, looking ahead for us to the unfolding of the larger narrative in English, providing a glimpse of what will be said and done" (p. 259). In their relation to the English text, "they insist upon reminding us of the textuality of the experience, of its unreality, of its craftedness" (p. 259); thus the engagement between "self" and "other" in reading CA becomes an engagement with the text itself. At the same time, the verses allow "entry in to the fictional world of the frame and exempla an authoritative, directing presence which is also authorial. By reminding us continually that the fiction is text, neither self-productive nor uncrafted, the Latin verses bring us back to the source of such crafting" (p. 260). The third voice, of the marginalia, provide a gloss to the poem, "referring to the events from a third-person point of view" (p. 261) and "directing the act of comprehension" (p. 262). Such glosses are presented as the work of an "unnamed 'other' reader" (p. 262), and there is no good precedent for Gower's decision to compose such glosses for his own text. The device recalls Derrida's discussion of the "doubled" text, and suggests Gower's consciousness of the page itself as "sign." As illustrations of the layout of a typical MS page, Yeager includes reproductions of three pages from Yale University MS Osborn fa. 1, a "third recension" copy of the early 15th century unknown to both Macaulay and Fisher. Though differing in orthography and layout, the text appears to be quite close to Fairfax. We should hope to learn more about it from the forthcoming Catalog of the Manuscripts of the Works of John Gower. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 7.2]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis
Manuscripts and Textual Studies

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